Tag Archives: Annetta White

Watson lies when he drinks, but not about country music

10 Nov

DaleWatsonaloneArchived story updated with video

Singer and songwriter Dale Watson admits that he lies when he drinks — and he drinks a lot of Lone Star beer, a magical elixir that he says promotes good health and a long happy life.

“It’s the best beer in the world,” he says. “It whitens your teeth, increases your brain cells, eats calories. If you drink one day every day of your life, you’ll never die – that’s a money back guarantee, though you must collect in person.”

He calls Lone Star beer “liquid Viagra; it’s good for your skin, it increases your eyesight, and it makes you prettier. Lone Star has all kinds of benefits.”

Though Watson has been performing at venues throughout Austin for more than 25 years, he recently became “an overnight sensation” with his hit single, “I Lie When I Drink,” off his El Rancho Azul album.  The lyrics to his song: “I lie when I drink and I drink a lot” drew the attention of David Letterman who invited Watson to appear June 24 on the Late Night TV show.

Since January, Watson’s signature deep baritone voice sings the catchy tune for Nyle Maxwell’s television commercials: “Maxwell’s got the trucks man, Maxwell’s got the trucks. Any Ram truck you’d ever want, Maxwell’s got the trucks…”

“I love those commercials man,” Watson says. “They help pay the bills” and for upkeep on his long luxury touring bus as well.

Watson also has become something of “a lightening rod” spokesman for recent music controversy across the Internet.  The old-timers in the music business could have spit teeth when 2012 Country Music Awards’ entertainer of the year Blake Shelton called country music “grandpa’s music” while taping an episode of Backstory in Nashville.

Shelton’s words chewed on classic country performers across the state, but it in Austin he really rubbed Watson and others the wrong way. Watson and the late Ray Price before his death in December had spoken out publically about Shelton’s misperceptions.

Over the past six months, Watson drew a following of loyal fans who supported a new genre of music that he together with Price had named “Ameripolitan music.”

Watson ended up spearheading Austin’s own inaugural “Ameripolitan Music Awards”  Feb. 19 – a 100 percent fan-funded event with 400 guests at the Wyndham Garden Hotel to honor the roots of country, western swing, rockabilly and honky-tonk music.  Honorees included Johnny Bush who received the “Founder of the Sound” award. Bush also accepted and a posthumous “master award” given to Price.

Other local performers honored included: Jesse Dayton, James Hand, Ray Benson, Rosie Flores, Dawn Sears, Wayne “the train” Hancock, Whitey Morgan, the Derailers and the Haybales band.

“Some don’t like the roots of country music, so we just took that and named it something different,” Watson said.

The popularity of Ameripolitan music began in Texas with Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the likes of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Web Pearce and Faron Young, Ray Price and George Jones, and with female performers like Rose Maddox, Jean Shepard and Jean Shepard Patsy Cline, and later Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard, and other honky-tonk heroes like Gary Stewart, continued to produce hits well into the 1970s and ‘80s.

Watson continues to cover the great classic hits of his predecessors in live performances and has recorded his own original music on 21 albums and on Austin City Limits television show dozens of times. His latest November performance aired on KLRU-TV Feb. 8, ironically on the same night that he and his band, the LoneStars, played at the Broken Spoke. Watson shared the ACL episode with Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves. The show re-aired Feb. 13 on the same channel.

“I’m hoping some folks that watch Kacey, will discover me,” Watson says. “She has a totally different type of music. She has a new – ‘girl-bashing-guys’ sound and I’m an old standard country singer.”

He and his band have performed at the Grand Ole Opry 19 times. He plays at the Broken Spoke 3201 S. Lamar once a month and lots of Monday nights at the Continental Club 1315 S. Congress Ave.

Never one to shy away from an enterprise, Watson owns two bars: Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, featuring “Chicken Sh*t Bingo,” every Sunday from 4 until 8 p.m. and Big T Roadhouse in Saint Hedwig just outside San Antonio. He manages the bars when he’s not touring or playing venues throughout Central Texas on weekends.

Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon’s previous owner, Ginny Kalmbach, retired amidst money troubles before Watson bought and refurbished it in November.

“It was going to turn into a used car lot,” Watson says. “Luckily the owner of the property approached me. He says ‘You’re the only one I trust to do this right and keep Ginny’s Little Longhorn the Little Longhorn. We had known each other for 20 years.”

Regardless of wherever he and his LoneStars perform, Watson pretty much sings the same song set – including his original tunes, as well as the classic cover songs of Bob Wills, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Ray Price – a lot of Price, — and Johnny Cash.

Watson’s career has spanned the whole gamut of country and western music from the 1960s to the present, with all of its dips, dives and flows. His quirkiness for flamboyant satin and sequins costumes, a fondness for personal tattoos, and his shocking head full of white hair styled in ‘50s rockabilly pompadour fashion, makes him a standout among his middle-aged peers.

“When I grew up, on the radio there used to be Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ray Price and Gary Stewart – really good music; it was country music without all the other players in there,” Watson says. “In the 1970s country music all changed once they started lettin’ in the Kenny Rogers and the pop bands from LA. It changed drastically. You had these little bands from Texas, like Rascal Flats. Nowadays we’re dealing with the most pop stuff I’ve ever heard in my life, like Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney.”

Texas’ disco years briefly followed the 1980 dramatic western romance movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger. Most club owners hired deejays to spin records and for a time some local clubs quit hiring bands to play, but the Broken Spoke didn’t.

He first performed at the Broken Spoke in 1989, with members of The Wagoneers, before Monte Warden, Brent Wilson and Craig Allen Pettigrew broke up that band.

“It felt good to be playing in such a historical place,” Watson says. It’s (the Broken Spoke) kind of like Austin City Limits; it’s a place you aspire to play if you grew up in Texas and you want to play real dance halls in Austin – it’s the only one left.”

Not long after establishing a name in town, Watson released his first single “One Chair at a Time,” in 1990 on the Curb Records label and he followed by producing a video.

Watson started sitting in on stage with Chris Wall before finally creating The LoneStars in 1992. About that time, he landed a regular Wednesday night gig at the Broken Spoke.

“I’ve worked hard — over 33 years playing,” Watson says.

His career began in his hometown of Pasadena, Texas. Watson began performing in clubs at 14 years old, along with two of his older brothers, Jim Watson, who played guitar, and Donny Watson who at different times played either guitar or bass. The Watson brothers called their band Classic Country, named after the popular PBS television show, The Classic Country Hour.

Watson’s musical passion has always been classic country music, but he says some of his early performances wandered far from his roots. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, in order to find steady work, he played whatever his audiences demanded — the radio hits of the late ‘70s and ‘80s in country music.

“Then music started getting polluted,” he says. “I remember playing some stuff that I didn’t really want to play.”

During the disco era, Watson continued to perform cover songs by George Jones, Gary Stewart and Ray Price. Stewart died in 2003 and Price passed away last December.

Watson says that fans come out to hear him specifically, but the Broken Spoke’s loyal following of dancers will show up regardless of whoever performs on any given night.

Lots of celebrities have shared the stage with Watson over the years at the Broken Spoke: every one from Johnny Knoxville to Amy LaVere, Johnny Rodriguez and Johnny Bush used to sit in regularly too, but not so much recently, Watson says.

As a youngster, Watson says he never intended to become a musician, singer, or songwriter. As a boy he dreamed of joining the military or becoming a doctor, but childhood poverty and an eye injury instead decided his fate.

“It was a blow to me because I really wanted to be a pilot. My folks couldn’t afford college and I was interested in aviation, but I knew my eye wouldn’t let me do that,” Watson says. “So my next interest was to go into medicine. I was going to go as a corps man in the Navy; the military would have allowed me to go to college, but that didn’t work out.”

Watson supported himself by performing gigs in bars every chance he had, week nights and weekends.

“Man, I got lucky. I count my blessings all the time,” Watson says. “My kids are going into acting. I’ve done a lot of acting too – those (Maxwell) commercials play every hour, so much that people are getting sick of them, but I like those commercials.”

His two daughters, Raquel Cain Watson and Dalynn Grace Watson, both work as actresses, even though Watson wishes they wouldn’t, he says.  The music business may be tough, but life for an actor can be even tougher.

“I moved to Austin, then I got job offer at a publishing company in Nashville. I worked there about 10 months and then I said ‘screw this.’ Then I got an offer to be in some movies with River Phoenix, who was going to direct them. Just as I was moving out to LA, he died,” Watson says. “Then I moved straight back to Austin.”

Watson signed with Hightone Records in 1994 and produced his first album, Cheating Heart, in 1995. He recorded two records in Nashville in 2002 and 2008, but since then all of his other albums have been recorded locally at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio or Ray Benson’s Austin studio.

Currently, he spends most Tuesdays and Wednesdays working on a new album that will become Volume 3 of the trilogy series, The Trucking Sessions.

Watson’s steel player Don Pollock, has performed with him for the past 11 years.

Watson says in his 50s now, he’s working harder now than he did half a lifetime ago.

“It’s weird being 51 years old, having this stuff happen so late in life,” Watson says. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but that’s ok – I’d rather be busy than not. Once the Ameripolitan awards show is over I’ll be able to breathe again.”

Watson says he feels grateful to the Broken Spoke’s owners, James and Annetta White. The Broken Spoke received “the best venue” trophy at the Ameripolitan Awards for helping to support the roots of country, swing, rockabilly and honky-tonk music across the United States. The nearly 75-year-old James White, spontaneously broke into the song, “Sam’s Place,” when accepting the award on stage and nearly stole the show at the Ameripolitan Music Awards.

“Nobody gets where I am alone,” Watson says. “Having this place as a bi-monthly or monthly gig — whether I’m touring or whatnot — has helped through the years, for me to support my family.  It’s helped me to meet other people through here that have furthered my career. I’ve gotten movie deals, commercials, and record deals through playing here. James is modest about what he brings to the place, but playing at the Broken Spoke gives you some modest stature.”

Watson performs at:  The Broken Spoke, The Little Longhorn Saloon, The Continental Club,  Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg, TX, The Saxon Pub, 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera, Tomball Honky-Tonk Fest in Tomball, Big T Roadhouse in Saint Hedwig, and Luckenbach Dance Hall in Luckenbach.

Published in Austin Fusion magazine 2/26/14 http://austinfusionmagazine.com/2014/02/25/dale-watson-lies-when-he-drinks/

Horenstein to screen ‘Spoke’ at Austin Film Festival Oct. 25 and 30

27 Oct

HH_portrait_IMG_1091Since the 1970s, Boston-based professional photographer, filmmaker, teacher and author Henry Horenstein has expressed his love of cultural history with a focused lens on country music.

Recently, he created a short 21-minute documentary about the Broken Spoke entitled, Spoke, that will screen at several film festivals, including Austin Film Festival Oct. 23-30. The documentary screened at 2 .m. today, oct. 25, at the Rollins Theater inside the Long Center and will screen again at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Alamo Drafthouse Village Theater.

Horenstein’s 21-minute documentary also screened at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles this past September.

He said filming over the summer included spending time visiting the Broken Spoke co-founders James and Annetta White.

They first met while he worked on his 2003 book, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, that included Horenstein’s photographs of country artists taken beginning in 1968.

The documentary represents Horenstein’s third that he has directed and produced, through he has been a still photographer for more than 30 years. He hired a local crew to shoot the documentary, including Lee Daniel, an Austin cinematographer whose work includes the 1993 feature, Dazed and Confused, directed by Richard Linklater.

“I was there (at the Broken Spoke) a couple of times over six days of shooting,” Horenstein said. “We interviewed James, Dale Watson, Gary P. Nunn, Chris Wall, Ray Benson, Alvin Crow, and Kevin Geil of Two Tons of Steel and Jesse Dayton along with several of the regular dancers there.”

William “Bill” Anderson edited Horenstein’s film footage in Boston. One of Anderson’s best-known works includes the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society, staring Robin Williams and directed by Peter Weir.

The Annenberg Space for Photography commissioned Horenstein to create the documentary about the Broken Spoke. Guest curators of the Annenberg exhibit included Shannon Perich, who also curates photography for the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., as well as Tim Davis and Michael McCall of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

He expects that he will participate in film festivals all over the world within the coming months.

Meanwhile, throughout the past three decades Horenstein has been a faithful patron of the Broken Spoke, despite the distance between Massachusetts and Texas.

“I’ve been going there for years. I don’t get there that often, but whenever I go, I go to the Broken Spoke,” he said.

“I really just met James when I photographed him a couple of years ago. I would go just as anyone would go – just as a customer.”

In those early days he and his girlfriend who lived in Houston, visited the Broken Spoke.

“We used to travel to Austin to hear music and stay for a few days,” he said. “Then Broken Spoke was definitely on our agenda, always. I was a little bit of a dancer back then; I’m not now. Now I just go to hear the music.”

The idea to make a documentary about the Broken Spoke began with a generic appreciation for Texas dance halls. Horenstein realized that throughout its 50-year history, the Broken Spoke has endured because of its authenticity.

“I had worked as a still photographer for so long that I just wanted to grow a little bit. When they had the photo exhibition here and asked me to be in it, I was talking to the director of the museum and I told her that I was interested in making this film about the Broken Spoke,” he said.

“I had intended to make a documentary about the dance halls generally in Texas — the history and the decline of the dance halls. The Spoke is a part of the continuing tradition, but I just didn’t feel that I could raise the money or had the time to do something big; I thought I might be able to do something on just one club.”

Horenstein said that he found the experience of making a documentary a familiar one.

“Besides the technology that presented a challenge, the idea of making a documentary from a lot of moving still pictures presents a lot of similarities, such as getting people together and deciding what’s important to show and who to photograph and so forth and so on – they’re somewhat similar,” he said.

“It’s a lot of what I do when shooting still photos, however, with still photographs I am much more in control. When making a film I depend a lot more on other people.”

He said he studied cultural history at the University of Chicago before becoming a professional photographer. Over the years he found that his subjects usually fall into the category of popular history.

“First of all I am interested in history, popular music,” he said. “Number two, I am a fan of the music. I just love the music.”

Surprisingly, a lot of the bands that perform at the Broken Spoke perform regularly in Boston as well, he said. Dale Watson performs there a couple of times per year, as does Bruce Robison.

“We’re very familiar with Texas music,” he said. “Other people we don’t see quite as often, like Gary P. Nunn. When he was with Jerry Jeff (Walker) we used to see him, but not as much now. So we (Bostonians) know the music — not as well as you guys do of course, but we know the touring bands because they all come through Boston. So I love that style of music.”

He likes to capture country music stars in candid moments when they appear their most vulnerable. One of the photos in his Honky Tonk book that Horenstein captured in 1968 includes a young Dolly Parton wearing a modest white dress.

“She was just coming up then. She had worked with Porter Wagoner; she was part of his band at that time and they were performing in Boston. That’s when I photographed her in Boston’s Symphony Hall, believe it or not,” he said.

“Boston and a lot of the northern cities have a long history with country music that comes from a variety of things, but one is that a lot of people migrated north after World War II and the Korean War because there were a lot of jobs. If they were from small towns elsewhere, they came home from the war and needed to work so they had to go somewhere to work. A lot of times it meant coming to places like Boston to work because it had big ship yards.”

Beginning in the 1960s, downtown Boston hosted several country music venues.

“There were some pretty rough honky tonks too – the Hillbilly Ranch was one, in downtown Boston or what used to be called ‘the combat zone,’” he said. “It was a rough neighborhood in downtown Boston in those days.”

He said Texas music attracts Bostonians more so than Nashville music.

“In Boston, education is the number one business. They have dozens and dozens of colleges in Boston. There are all these folk festivals; all these folk clubs existed in the 60s and 70s when folk music was very popular. People like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, when they came up, came through Boston,” he said.

“Country music isn’t the same thing, but I think a lot of people relate to that kind of music through folk music. Joan Baez sang Johnny Cash songs on her first album. Big stars like Jerry Jeff Walker from New York State and other people like Slaid Cleaves more recently, from Maine, came to Austin to be closer to the music and their audiences.”

Before dying in 2003, Johnny Cash became known as an innovator who blended country, rock, blues and gospel genres of music, connecting people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities.

Guitarist Joan Baez became one of the most famous folk singers of the 1960s singing traditional American songs in interpretive ways. She and definitive songwriter and musician Bob Dylan, became a dynamic duo during the acoustic sound craze that began at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.

Pop culture appeals to people who live in both Boston and Texas, but folk and country music connects the two groups, he said.

When he was eight years old growing up in New Bedford, MA, Horenstein received the vinyl album, Johnny Cash sings Hank Williams by Sun Record Company and that’s when his love of country music began.

“I still have that and I still play it. Johnny Horton was my favorite singer. I loved Marty Robbins and ‘El Paso’ and songs like that. In those days, it was the 50s and 60s and all that music was on the AM radio along with Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. It was just popular music,” he said.

“It was the kind of music that I liked and then later on, I learned more about music through folk music. A lot of the bands that I liked then were really country bands like The New Lost City Ramblers and they played a lot of the creative music that we call country.”

He never really enjoyed listening to rock and roll music.

“I always listened to country music and there was always plenty of it around in Boston,” he said.

The 67-year-old fondly recalls the days in his 20s when he first saw touring country bands perform in clubs all over Boston. As an aficionado of country music, Horenstein’s life appears to have come full circle with the making of his documentary.

Horenstein hopes to show his Spoke documentary during the week of Nov. 4-8, in Austin when the Broken Spoke celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The Manninen Center for the Arts at Endicott College will continue to exhibit Horenstein’s Honky Tonk book through Nov. 17 in Beverly, MA. The Aug. 18 event included a book signing as well as the screening of the documentary, The Photographers Series: Henry Horenstein.

His work has also exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.; the International Museum of Photography, Eastman House in Rochester, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; and Fabrik der Kunste, in Hamburg, Germany.

 

 

 

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